The Identity Thief (The God machine book 1) by Alex Bryant
Length: 440 pages
Recommended reader age: YA and adult
Publisher: K&M Books, 2020
Genre: Fantasy and magical fiction
About the author:
Alex Bryant is an English author, originally from London but now living in Oxford. The Identity Thief is his first novel and part of the God Machine Series.
When he is not writing, or procrastinating, he is part of an improvised comedy troupe, Hivemind Improv.
Read more about him here, his sense of humour shines through its a good read, trust me!
Cassandra Drake: The narrator of the novel, a 12 year old girl who proves to be brave and resourceful. Normally goes by “Cass”
DCI Helen Drake: Cass’ mum and Detective Chief Inquisitor.
Hector Skeuopoios: New student at school, Greek, prone to seizures and socially awkward.
Perspherone Skeuopoios: Hectors mother, goes by Foni.
Cuttlefish: Powerful sorcerer, believed to be dead but now apparently returned and killing “innocent” people.
Plot summary, spoiler free I promise:
The novel takes place in Whittington in the UK, but in a time where magic is normal, but feared, and sorcery is talked about albeit in whispers. The Author describes Ancient Greece as the birthplace of magic, meaning Greek people are often a source of fear and discriminated against.
This novel tells of the return of Cuttlefish, an identity thief hunting for the Daedalus, a set of books which together create a talisman and enhance the sorcerers magic.
We start by seeing the Identity Thief at work through a father, his daughter and a forbidden book. We see the first (of many) magical deaths in this book before moving swiftly to the introduction of Cass.
We follow the return of Cuttlefish and the subsequent horror through the eyes of Cass, occasionally seeing Cuttlefish in the 3rd person as they hunt for the books. We stay with Cass as we learn more about Hector, discover magical lore and it’s role in this world, and discover the depth of fear for sorcerers through bullying at her school. With Cuttlefish we travel to libraries, empty car parks, dungeons and train stations as they bid to uncover all the Daedalus Books.
We see police brutality, intimidation and a lot of identity theft as well as learning more about mimesis, nyxing and River People.
I was hooked from the first sentence, the descriptive language, use of short sentence structure and the fact that more questions were raised than answers given made me want to read more. Already we see someone lying about being a criminal, and are given the first oh so tantalising glimpse that the books are Special and highly coveted by someone. In the same first chapter we also see a plastic bow made real, the first indication of how magic and sorcery work in this world.
The jump to the cemetery where Cass and Hector are introduced did throw me a bit, I was expecting more of a character introduction than the one that did happen, I assumed the speaker was the girl from the first chapter and was surprised when it wasn’t. Maybe I need to stop trying to predict books so much? Either way the cemetery scene raised even more questions than the first chapter, who are River People? What is the ghost story surrounding them and the house by the cemetery?
As the novel progressed I found that I enjoyed the more action centred scenes, especially the ones involving the Identity Thief/ Cuttlefish as it was hard to keep track of who was the person they were claiming to be, and who wasn’t. I felt this added perfectly to the panic and confusion being experienced by the people he came into contact with, and mirrored how hard it must have been to track them in reality.
I did however find that the dialogue sections and especially the scenes with Cass and her friends were somewhat clunky, and in parts could have been written by someone else, for me they ruined the flow a little and I wanted to know more about the magical world and about the mystery surrounding Hector, not how popular or not the narrator was. I got angry too at the introduction to Cass and her friends when the author talks a lot about being slim, gorgeous figure, skinny waist etc, but nothing about personalities or factors making them good friends. This is a personal bugbear of mine but I do think in this day and age readers should be able to judge characters for their mental and not physical attributes, especially when the characters are only 12.
I also found Hectors mum, Foni confusing, maybe because Cass did too, but I admit it caused me to lose thread of the plot a little. My last and smallest grumble was the ending, it happened so suddenly yet in a way that didn’t leave me needing to read the next book, maybe because I was still trying to process the major twists and significant reveals of the chapter before.
There is much good to say about this book though! I was kept thinking and guessing all the way through, I wanted to know more about the magic in this world, how it worked, where it came from, it’s limitations and how things like magical artefacts were made and used.
I especially liked the scenes around Cuttlefish’s hunt for the Daedalus Books, they answered a lot of my questions and made me keen for more scenes from this world of magic. I loved the glimpse into the underworld and Lyceum too, it was a far cry from Whittington High School and really bought the world to life.
Despite my earlier moan, the author brilliantly captures the mind, thought patterns and behaviour of a 12 year old girl. From bullying, school cafeteria etiquette and social media, Cass and her friends are really bought to life. I had forgotten how accidentally cruel kids can be, but also how brave and compassionate when they need to be.
This book will absolutely keep you guessing right until the very end, with multiple twists, reveals and historical events.
I recommend this for anyone who enjoys YA fantasy and is looking to explore new world and see a different take on magic.
“Each strand of the spider’s web is invisible. It’s only when you draw back that you can seethe pattern. If you’re already trapped, there’s no pattern to see.”